United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS THE
COMPLAINT OR STAY PROCEEDINGS AND COMPEL ARBITRATION
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bethzaida Deleon brings this action against Defendant Dollar
Tree Stores, Inc., her former employer, alleging state-law
gender discrimination, sexual harassment/hostile work
environment, and retaliation claims pursuant to the
Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 46a-60(a)(1) et seq. See Doc. 1, Ex.
A. Plaintiff initially filed the action in state court, but
Defendant removed it to this Court on May 19, 2016 on the
grounds of diversity jurisdiction. Doc. 1. Defendant
then filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to the Federal Arbitration
Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq, or in the
alternative, to stay the proceedings and compel
arbitration. Docs. 15-16. This Ruling resolves that
was initially hired by Defendant at its Waterford, CT store
on or about August 10, 2014. Doc. 1, Ex. A at 1 ¶ 4. In
August 2015, Plaintiff alleges that an incident occurred
between her, Tiffany Griffin, and Rafael Rosado, both
managers of the store. Id. at 1-2 ¶¶ 5-9.
The next day, a coworker informed Plaintiff about a
derogatory sexual comment made by Tiffany Griffin about
Plaintiff and Rafael Rosado. Id. at 1-2 ¶ 7.
Plaintiff contacted a Human Resources employee, who
eventually came to the store to meet with Plaintiff but did
not focus on resolving or otherwise addressing the incident.
Id. at 2-3 ¶¶ 9-15. Plaintiff called out
of work the next scheduled day after this meeting and was
told by an assistant manager that Defendant would contact
her. Id. at 3 ¶¶ 16-18. Plaintiff was
thereafter not given any shifts by Defendant while Defendant
continued to employ Tiffany Griffin. Id. at 3
implemented an arbitration program in 2014. Doc. 16-1,
Declaration of Steven Pearson ("Pearson Decl.")
¶¶ 4-5. Associates hired on or after October 6,
2014 were required to participate in the arbitration program
as a condition of employment. Id. ¶ 6. All
associates, like Plaintiff, hired prior to October 6, 2014,
were required to submit an opt-out form either electronically
or by mail to avoid being including in the arbitration
program. Id. ¶ 7. The deadline to opt-out was
May 31, 2015. Id. In April 2015, Defendant sent each
store manager detailed instructions and information regarding
the arbitration program and the steps to be taken with regard
to associates that had a right to opt-out (i.e.
associates hired prior to October 6, 2014). Id.
¶ 8. Pursuant to these instructions, every associate was
required to access the arbitration program's website,
which had all of the information regarding the arbitration
program including the Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims
("Arbitration Agreement"). Id.
¶¶ 9-10; Pearson Decl. Ex. A-2. A flyer was
required to be placed in each store that also contained
express information regarding how to opt-out and the deadline
for opting-out, May 31, 2015. Pearson Decl. ¶ 10;
Pearson Decl. Ex. A-3.
also had to acknowledge receipt of the Arbitration Agreement
by accessing the website and clicking a box by April 24,
2015. Pearson Decl. ¶ 12; Pearson Decl. Ex. A-2.
Defendant's records reveal that Plaintiff electronically
accessed the information regarding the arbitration program
twice on April 16, 2015. Pearson Decl. ¶ 13; Pearson Decl.
Ex. B. Plaintiff did not opt-out of the Arbitration
Arbitration Agreement expressly provides that: "The
Parties agree to the resolution by arbitration of all claims
or controversies . . . arising out of or related to
Associate's employment (or its termination) . . . that
Dollar Tree may have against Associate or that the Associate
may have against . . . (1) Dollar Tree." Pearson Decl.
Ex. C at 1. This expressly included "claims for . . .
retaliation or discrimination (including . . . sex)."
Id. The last page of the Arbitration Agreement
contains clauses detailing that the associate acknowledges
that he or she has carefully read the agreement, been given
the opportunity to discuss it with legal counsel, and
understands that he or she is giving up the right to a jury
trial. Id. at 4. It also states that the
"[c]onsideration" for the agreement is "[t]he
promises by Dollar Tree and by Associate to arbitrate
disputes, rather than litigate them before courts or other
bodies, " which "provide[s] consideration for each
other." Id. Finally, the Arbitration Agreement
provides that the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA")
will govern the interpretation and enforcement of the
agreement. Id. at 1.
Standard of Review
"The FAA creates a 'body of federal substantive law
of arbitrability, applicable to any arbitration agreement
within the coverage of the Act." In re Am. Express
Fin. Advisors Sec. Litig., 672 F.3d 113, 127 (2d Cir.
2011) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury
Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)). It
"establishes a national policy favoring arbitration when
the parties contract for that mode of dispute
resolution" and "calls for the application, in
state as well as federal courts, of federal substantive law
regarding arbitration." Id. (quoting
Preston v. Ferrer, 552 U.S. 346, 349 (2008))
(internal quotation marks omitted). The FAA generally applies
to employment agreements. Circuit City Stores, Inc. v.
Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 119 (2001). There is a liberal
policy favoring arbitration agreements, but parties cannot
submit to arbitration disputes they did not so agree to
submit. Am. Express, 672 F.3d at 127. However, any
doubts concerning the scope of an agreement to arbitrate
"should be resolved in favor of arbitration" and
courts are required "to construe arbitration clauses as
broadly as possible." Id. at 128 (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
context of a motion to compel arbitration brought pursuant to
the FAA, this Court "applies a standard similar to that
applicable for a motion for summary judgment."
Bensadoun v. Jobe-Riat, 316 F.3d 171, 175 (2d Cir.
2003). "If there is an issue of fact as to the making of
the agreement for arbitration, then a trial is
necessary." Id. (citing 9 U.S.C. § 4). The
Second Circuit follows a two-part test to determine whether
claims are subject to arbitration. Am. Express, 672
F.3d at 128. First, a court considers "whether the
parties have entered into a valid agreement to
arbitrate." Id. (citations omitted). Second, if
the parties have entered into such an agreement, the court
considers "whether the dispute at issue comes within the
scope of the arbitration agreement." Id.
the FAA creates a body of federal substantive law regarding
arbitration, "in evaluating whether the parties have
entered in a valid arbitration agreement, the court must look
to state law principles." Cap Gemini Ernst &
Young, U.S., LLC v. Nackel, 346 F.3d 360, 364 (2d Cir.
2003); see also Hottle v. BDO Seidman LLP, 268 Conn.
694, 704-05 (2004) (quoting and citing, inter alia,
Cap Gemini, 346 F.3d at 364). Under Connecticut law,
order for a contract to be valid there must be a meeting of
the minds. Helenese v. Oracle Corp., No. 09-351,
2010 WL 670172, at *3 (D. Conn. Feb. 19, 2010) (citing
Gibbs v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins., 97-0567009, 1998 WL
123010, at *2 (Conn. Super. Ct. March 3, 1998)). "For a
promise to be enforceable against the promisor, the promisee
must have given consideration for the promise, defined as
'a benefit to the party promising, or a loss or detriment
to the party to whom the promise is made.'"
Id. (quoting Gibbs, 1998 WL 123010, at *2).
without a written contract, such "a legally binding
agreement may be inferred from the parties' conduct when
that conduct shows a tacit understanding, " given the
circumstances. D'Antuono v. Serv. Road Corp.,
789 F.Supp.2d 308, 324 (D. Conn. 2011) (citing Sandella
v. Dick Corp., 53 Conn.App. 213, 219 (1999)). Moreover,
"[t]he FAA generally requires federal courts to enforce
even implied agreements to arbitrate, so long as they are set
forth in some writing." Id. (citing 9 U.S.C.
§ 2 and Genesco, Inc. v. T. Kakiuchi & Co.,
815 F.2d 840, 845 (2d Cir. 1987)). Thus, if an employee is
presented with a written arbitration agreement, it may be
irrelevant that the employee never actually signed it if the
employee's consent can be reasonably inferred from the
employee's conduct. See id.
Court now addresses each of the two-parts of the inquiry
required by this Circuit to determine if this action must be
dismissed or arbitration compelled: (1) whether this
Arbitration Agreement is valid, and (2) whether the disputes
at issue are the subject of the Arbitration Agreement.
See Am. Express, 672 F.3d at 128. The Court ...